By now, we all know it is simply impossible to talk about 2020 without mentioning ‘COVID-19’ or ‘coronavirus’. These two words have become synonyms for this year. It has been a time of unprecedented grief, anxiety and loneliness for many people worldwide: the loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of homes…
Need I say more?
And yet, in my own personal and individual experience, 2020 has been an unexpected harbinger of change for me. Without any elaborate plan, I have fallen back in love with life, Alhamdulillah. That seems a completely insane thing to say at a time when the world is still reeling from the devastating economic, social and political ramifications of the pandemic. Yet, oddly enough, 2020 has become the year in which I have embarked upon a reinvention of myself.
In a time where many are struggling to survive, be it emotionally or financially, I have watched the year play out and listened to and read many heart-wrenching stories of personal grief. I have witnessed how adversity causes people to reach deep within themselves and get creative. The many examples of resilience I have encountered provided the impetus for seeking a greater meaning to my own life. I mean, if others could do it, why not I? Which is why I say 2020 has been a turnaround for me. It seems incongruous, I know. But seeing all the drudgery out there, I knew indifference was not only unacceptable, it was almost immoral.
With all its tumultuous events, 2020 has brought with it great uncertainties in our lives. However, the very nature of life in this world is just that – uncertainty. So, in a most unlikely way, I am reminded of my ultimate purpose on the Earth. It is not to make it a permanent home. This is not the final stop. On this journey through life, I know I will be bounced around and often thrown out of my seat. But that’s OK. I understand that Allah never wanted us to be complacent about any given situation we may find ourselves in. He will shake us and shock us and, through it, test our nerves. Insha’Allah, it is a test we will all pass with patience and dignity.
For me, 2020 has given me the confidence to dust down skills and talents I have always had but dismissed as irrelevant – till now. I have returned to teaching; I have taken up a lifelong ambition to write and I have supported my boys through their own highs and lows in life. Most significantly, I have learnt that if I expect Allah to help me, I need to help myself first. Alhamdulillah, I can testify that the formula has been working. I have had many private moments when I have simply breathed deeply to inhale the serenity which permeates in my home, Alhamdulillah. I am only too aware how fragile peace and security can be, not simply because of the pandemic, but because I have seen how myopic humans can also inflict irreparable damage on their own lives.
This year has given me exponentially more reason to be grateful. So far, I have not just come through unscathed but even more active and determined than ever before to give my life renewed purpose. It has taken a potent pandemic to make the once seemingly irrelevant things in life cherished even more.
There are only two ways to live your life
One is as though nothing is a miralce
The other is as though everything is
I know 2020 is a year many would like to forget. It has been the uninvited guest who outstayed their welcome. I understand that. I have been in that dark place myself. However, I would argue that it has been the necessary teacher who has set up a classroom within our own homes. It has taught us about what we need to value in life most – our relationships with family and friends and with nature. It has taught us about our own evil excesses – material desires, insatiable appetites to entertain our every whim. Most importantly, it has taught us about our relationship with Allah. It has been a year of emptying The Self. As we lay the year to rest, I pay tribute to 2020.